Category Archives: France

BERGERAC – the town with the big fake nose

Cyrano - Australian readers may notice a striking resemblance to John Bell playing the role at Sydney Theatre Company.

Australian readers may notice a striking resemblance to John Bell playing Cyrano for Sydney Theatre Company many years ago. And is that Roxane at the window?


‘How long will it take us to find a statue of Cyrano in Bergerac?’ I ask as we drive into that French town.

Though there was once a real Cyrano de Bergerac who inspired Edmond Rostand’s classic play about the poet with panache and protruding proboscis, there’s no reason to think he ever visited the town in his lifetime.

That doesn’t stop Bergeracians cashing in on his reputation. We park in front of Boulangerie Cyrano, drink café in Café Cyrano, walk a block and find the man himself in front of Maison Cyrano. Continue reading

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LOURDES – no quick fix

Is it just harmless fun or cashing in on people's gullibility?

Is it just harmless fun or cashing in on the gullibility of desperate people?

I find Lourdes disturbing.

It worries me that some people can be so credulous as to think that making a visit to a town in the south of France on Planet Earth, circling an undistinguished star on a remote arm of the Milky Way galaxy, will somehow bring them closer to the creator of the universe.

And it worries me to find myself scoffing at something which is apparently at the core of some people’s lives. Continue reading

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THE TALE OF THE LAGUIOLE KNIFE – were we skinned?

If a deal is too good to be true...?

If a deal is too good to be true…?

Browsing the brocante market in the French town of Bergerac, our friend Carla spots a bargain.

It’s a Laguiole sommelier’s knife, brand new, still in its box. In a typically kind and generous gesture, she buys it (‘for a song,’ she assures us) and presents it to me as a gift. Continue reading

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A FRENCH MOUNTAIN VILLAGE

St Martin sur Vesubie. Not much going on on a sunny Saturday morning.

St Martin sur Vesubie. Not much going on on a sunny Saturday morning.


‘A Jacques Tati square,’ our walking mate Peter calls it. We know exactly what he means.

We sit outside the boulangerie in St Martin sur Vesubie with our early morning cafe and pain au chocolat and watch as the village comes to life, its characters coming and going like figures in a mechanical clock.

Nobody seems in a hurry, including us. We have several hours to kill before the bus will take us back to Nice. Continue reading

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HOW TOUGH IS A WALK ON THE GR5?

St Delmas le Selvage. It looks a long way down.

St Dalmas le Selvage. It looks a long way down from here, but it’s where the nearest cafe is waiting.

It’s hard to describe for non-walkers the experience of hiking one of Europe’s great trails, the GR5 over the French Alps.

Here’s my best effort to compare it to an exercise anyone can try at home… Continue reading

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ENTER VIA THE GIFT SHOP – St Paul de Vence

The Grand Fountain.

The Grand Fountain.

It’s always nice when Fairfax media publishes my work in the ‘Traveller’ section of the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age. It means I can then release the full story on this blog…

The artists came to Saint-Paul-de-Vence because it was beautiful, quiet and cheap. The dealers moved in to hang out with the artists and buy their work. Their galleries attracted the tourists and smart restaurants replaced the artists’ smoky cafes and bars. The artists passed away or drifted away to find somewhere quieter and cheaper. Continue reading

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TEN REASONS TO LOVE THE FRENCH ALPS

The scenery is a knockout.

The scenery is a knockout.

I think I’ve now spent more time walking in the French Alps than any other place in the world, even including the hiking I’ve done in Australia and New Zealand.

This year’s leg was six days hiking the GR5 and its variants between St Paul sur l’Ubaye and St Martin de Vesubie.

It’s still an annual highlight of my life to spend a week in the mountains with my Dutch friends.

Here’s why I keep going back there: Continue reading

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